JOnline: Common Ground on Segregation of Duties in Application Management 

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Perhaps one of the most difficult things for an information technology (IT) department to understand is the concept of segregation of duties and when it may be required. It becomes even more difficult in the context of managing a complete application system, which includes the application as well as the database back end.

An IT department has to be able to see the standard it is expected to live up to and get a sense of the big picture. While there is a lot of written guidance to this effect, it is difficult to find a source that will commit to laying out an example.

After performing its own search, the Corus Entertainment Inc. IT department sought another perspective regarding segregation of duties for the in-scope applications. In response, the roles vs. activities matrix shown in figure 1 was created.

The first thing to be said about the matrix is, of course, that it is not "one size fits all." It represents a reflection of goals for the organization and shows a specific granularity. The purpose of this matrix was to provide a common understanding and a place to start negotiations.

When using this as an internal auditor, it may not always be possible to separate some of these roles, but once a conflict is identified, the IT department knows that it must justify the appropriateness of what appears to be a conflict, segregate the duties or implement some form of mitigation.

No matter what the outcome is of such an exercise, members of the IT department will understand how their work is being evaluated, and they will be better prepared for comments. Segregation of duties sparked the liveliest exchanges of Corus Entertainment's internal audit. Since findings may change how people perform their day-to-day functions, they should receive clear feedback.

Figure 1
Note: Cells marked with an "X" indicate roles and tasks that are incompatible with each other, and where segregation of duties is advised.

Richard Savage
is manager, IT standards and compliance, at Corus Entertainment Inc. in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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